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Amphiboly

 

Disciplines Argument > Fallacies > Amphiboly

Description | Discussion | Example | See also

 

Description

The structure of a sentence has more than one possible meaning.

Example

Young men and women. (are the women young?)

Who is the doctor. (it's Doctor Who!)

Discussion

As with other forms of ambiguity, amphiboly can cause confusion and hence puts the other person into a state where they are open to different ideas.

Amphiboly may be deliberate or accidental. Where it is deliberate, it may be used to confuse or make subconscious suggestions. This is particularly effective where the second meaning of the sentence may take a few moments to sink in. Thus the obvious meaning is stated with the intent that the secondary meaning is interpreted only at the subconscious level.

A common form of amphiboly is where an adjective is used with two nouns (e.g. 'Good boys and girls'), making it unclear whether the adjective applies to the second noun.

Amphiboly is one of Aristotle's 13 fallacies.

Classification

Ambiguity

Also known as

Amphibology

See also

Confusion principle, Amphibology

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